By: Joe Pohoryles
The Washington, D.C. sports teams have seen plenty of athletes do incredible things while representing the nation’s capital. One of the most recognizable features of these athletes is the numbers they sport on their uniforms.
As we forge on in these times with little going on in the sports world, I will spend the next week-and-a-half exploring which players were the best to wear every possible jersey number, continuing today with 80-89.
Of course comparing players across different sports is difficult, but this will take a look at the most impactful and iconic DC sports figures. Some of the names on this will be more prominent than others; several lesser worn numbers will merely be default picks. In any case, it should be interesting to see the distribution.
(Note: For NBA and NHL, a player’s tenure is marked by the year their first season ended until the year their final season ended. For example, John Wall was drafted in 2010 and was a rookie in the 2010-11 season, but since the season ended in 2011, his tenure is listed as 2011-present. This is not necessary for MLB — where the entire season is played in the same calendar year — or NFL — where only the postseason is played in a different calendar year.)
*= the player’s tenure on the team extended longer before or after the stated dates, but said player wore a different number in those other years
80) Gene Brito, Washington Redskins’ tight end/defensive end (1951-1953, 1955-1958)
Runner-up: Roy Jefferson, Washington Redskins’ wide receiver (1971-1976)
Brito played on both sides of the ball during his career, but excelled on defense. He made his first Pro Bowl in 1953, spent a year in the CFL with the Calgary Stampeders, then returned to the NFL in 1955, leading to his second Pro Bowl, a First Team All-Pro selection, and the Player of the Year title from the Washington D.C. Touchdown Club. He was named All-Pro four more times (three First Team), and was named to the 80 Greatest Redskins.
Jefferson had more success with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he made the Pro Bowl and was named Second Team All-Pro during his first season in Washington, and he helped the team get to the Super Bowl in 1972.
81) Art Monk, Washington Redskins’ wide receiver (1980-1993)
Runner-up: Joe Walton, Washington Redskins’ tight end/defensive end (1957-1960)
The Hall of Fame receiver was on the team for all three Super Bowl wins. His best season came in 1984, where he broke the NFL single-season receptions record with 106, and was named First Team All-Pro. By the end of his career, Monk briefly held league records for career receptions (940) and career yards among active players (12,721) until being surpassed by Jerry Rice in both categories within weeks of Monk setting the record. The best receiver in franchise history, Monk is the easy choice for 81.
Walton is another two-way player on this list, although he was not quite as prolific as Briton. His father, Frank “Tiger” Walton, played for the team in the mid-1940s, and Joe followed in his footsteps. After his career, the younger Walton spent decades as a coach, serving as the Skins’ offensive coordinator from 1978-1980, before eventually getting the head coaching job with the New York Jets (1983-1989), then Robert Morris University (1994-2013).
82) Michael Westbrook, Washington Redskins’ wide receiver (1995-2001)
Runner-up: Antwaan Randle El, Washington Redskins’ wide receiver/return specialist (2006-2009)
Westbrook was the fourth overall pick in the 1995 draft, and while he did total over 1,000 receiving yards in 1999, injuries prevented him from reaching his full potential. After his NFL career, Westbrook got into mixed martial arts, going 1-1 with one additional no contest in three career fights.
Randle El started his career in Pittsburgh, where he won Super Bowl XL and became the first wide receiver in NFL history to throw a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl. With the Redskins, Randle El scored 11 touchdowns: eight receiving, two passing and one punt return. He totaled a career-high 728 receiving yards in 2007.
83) Ricky Sanders, Washington Redskins’ wide receiver (1987-1993*)
Runner-up: Jay Beagle, Washington Capitals’ forward (2009-2018)
Sanders made up one-third of the Redskins’ receiving corps nicknamed “The Posse,” along with Monk and Gary Clark in 1989, in which all three totaled over 1,000 receiving yards. In Super XXII, he was one of a handful of Redskins who broke Super Bowl records in the 42-10 beatdown of the Denver Broncos, including most receiving yards (193), most total yards (235) and most touchdowns in one quarter (2), among others. Sanders won his second Super Bowl with the Redskins in the 1991 season.
Beagle was not a player to light up the stat sheet, but he was a solid bottom-six forward and penalty-killing face-off specialist. He won 56.4% of his face-offs in 10 seasons with the Capitals, and as a longtime Cap became a popular player with fans. Beagle jerseys were always visible in Capital One Arena alongside the usual top players. When the Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018, Beagle became the first player to win the Kelly Cup of the ECHL, the Calder Cup of the AHL, and the Stanley Cup, making him a champion on the three highest levels of professional American hockey.
84) Gary Clark, Washington Redskins’ wide receiver (1985-1992)
Runner-up: Jean Fugett, Washington Redskins’ tight end (1976-1979)
Clark, the third member on this list who was part of “The Posse,” of 1989, was perhaps the most consistent receiver in franchise history when it comes to year-to-year production. In eight seasons, Clark never totaled fewer than 892 receiving yards in a season, and he eclipsed 1,000 yards five times. Clark was a four-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro and two-time Super Bowl champion.
Fugett started his career in Dallas, but did not become a regular starter until he joined the Redskins. A Baltimore native, Fugett made his only Pro Bowl in 1977 after totaling 631 receiving yards and five touchdowns, both career-highs. He set a new career-high the following year with seven touchdowns, which led the team that year.
85) Don Warren, Washington Redskins’ tight end (1979-1992)
Runner-up: Henry Ellard, Washington Redskins’ wide receiver (1994-1998)
Warren spent all 14 NFL seasons in Washington, serving as the team’s starting tight end for the vast majority of his career. Better known for his blocking, Warren was one of the few non-offensive linemen who were a part of “The Hogs.” Warren started 181 of the 193 games he played in a Redskins uniform, and was with the team during all three Super Bowl wins.
Ellard spent the majority of his career as a receiver and returner for the Rams, but still managed to record three 1,000 yard seasons in a row with the Redskins in his mid-30s. The former All-Pro led the team in receiving yards in all three of those seasons, from ’94-’96,
Vernon Davis is a DC native and former Terp who spent the twilight years of his career in burgundy and gold, contributing as a backup for the oft-injured Jordan Reed. It would have been a treat to see a prime Davis fly down the field for the Redskins; he likely would have topped Warren if he had.
86) John Paluck, Washington Redskins’ defensive end (1959-1965*)
Runner-up: Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins’ tight end (2013-2019)
Paluck was a second-round pick in 1956, where he wore No. 85, and then spent the next two years in the military. Upon rejoining the team in 1959, Paluck became the starter at left defensive end. Despite making just one Pro Bowl in his career, Paluck was among the best defensive players of the early ’60s.
Reed never played a full 16 games in a season, and his injury history, which includes seven documented concussions, is cause for great concern for his life after football. When healthy, Reed was one of the most underrated offensive forces in the league. His size (6’3″, 242 pounds) and athleticism made him a match-up nightmare, and he was one of Kirk Cousins’s top targets amidst the team’s inconsistencies at wide receiver.
87) Jerry Smith, Washington Redskins’ tight end (1965-1977)
Runner-up: Charlie Brown, Washington Redskins’ wide receiver (1982-1984)
Smith spent all 13 NFL seasons in Washington, and became arguably the greatest tight end in franchise history. A two-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, Smith retired with the most career touchdowns by a tight end. It was revealed after his death that he was gay. Spending his whole career in the closet, Smith was one of the first high-profile gay athletes, and many people, including longtime teammate and friend Brig Owens, believe he should be in the Hall of Fame, and he would already be if he were heterosexual. With career stats better than Hall of Famers like Mike Ditka and Dave Casper, he definitely should be in Canton.
Brown helped the team win Super Bowl XVII in his rookie season, totaling 690 receiving yards in nine games to earn a trip to the Pro Bowl. He had a career year the following season, where he led the team with 1,225 yards and made his second Pro Bowl. He was traded to Atlanta after his third season, but he accomplished a lot on both a team and personal level in his short time here.
Rod Gardner was a starting receiver in Washington for four seasons (2001-2004), and put up at least 600 receiving yards each season. He had 1,006 receiving yards on 71 receptions in 2002, both team- and career-highs.
88) Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins’ wide receiver (2012-2016)
Runner-up: Chet Ostrowski, Washington Redskins’ defensive end (1954-1959)
Garcon was a breakout performer with the Colts after being drafted in the sixth round in 2008, but after signing a five-year/$42.5 million deal with the Skins in 2012, he became the team’s top pass-catching target for Robert Griffin III. The following season, Garcon led the league with 113 receptions and posted a career-high 1,346 receiving yards. In his final four seasons with the team, Garcon played in all 64 games, starting in all but two. As the team’s best receiver of the 2010s, Garcon is also the best to wear 88.
Ostrowski spent the mid- to late-1950s as the team’s starting right defensive end. He spent all six NFL seasons in Washington, totaling two career interceptions and four fumble recoveries. His three fumble recoveries in 1955 were second behind Brito on the team.
Gerardo Parra did not even spend a full season in a Nats uniform, joining the team from San Francisco in May. After adopting the children’s song “Baby Shark” as his walk-up song to get out of a hitting slump, Parra sparked a movement that carried the Nats to their title. Despite not getting much playing time, he was the heart of the clubhouse. Is he the best player in DC history to wear 88? Not even close, but his importance to the 2019 Nationals warrants a mention.
89) Santana Moss, Washington Redskins’ wide receiver (2005-2014)
Runner-up: Dave Robinson, Washington Redskins’ linebacker (1973-1974)
Moss spent the first four seasons of his career on the New York Jets. His first season in Washington was his best; he totaled a single-season franchise record 1,483 yards (which was also second-most in the league that season) on 84 receptions. He was named to his only Pro Bowl as well as Second Team All-Pro. He eclipsed 1,000 yards two more times in his career, and his 7,867 receiving yards with the Redskins are the fourth-most in franchise history.
Robinson put together a Hall of Fame career mainly with the Green Bay Packers. He spent just the final two seasons of his 12-year career in Washington, but he started all 28 games. He totaled six interceptions and three fumble recoveries across those two seasons.